Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said he has received complaints from staff at the BVI Ports Authority (BVIPA) that their vacation allocations were unfairly being deducted for quarantine purposes if they are suspected to have COVID-19.
The BVI experienced an unprecedented outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus recently, resulting in more than 30 deaths and more than 1,600 persons testing positive within the last month. The public has since been asked by health officials to voluntarily quarantine for two weeks where they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or are experiencing symptoms.
But Penn told JTV’s The Big Story recently that staff was being short-changed as a result of this.
“If they contract COVID-19 on the job, they would be paid. But if you’re on probation, you’ll be dropped off the payroll,” Penn claimed.
According to Penn, he was also told that staff who acquired the virus off the job, would have their monies deducted from their vacation pay.
Penn stated that he saw the official document from the BVIPA that spoke to the issue, so he was not speaking from hearsay.
Staff who did not have vacation pay, he further stated, would be dropped off the payroll.
Staff should not be penalised for falling ill
The Opposition Leader said COVID-19 was no one’s fault and staff should not be penalised for becoming ill.
Penn said the BVIPA’s policy was being enacted at a time when persons could ill-afford to lose a paycheck and were struggling to make ends meet.
He warned that the policy will most likely lead to persons not disclosing to the Authority that they may have been exposed or contracted the virus if they are in danger of losing a paycheque.
“You are now forcing persons to do things for their own best interest because, at the end of the day, this is a government entity,” Penn said.
Businesses likely to follow the government’s lead
Penn said the private sector is likely to follow the lead of government if this were to continue to happen. He also noted that BVIPA workers were allowed 12 sick days per year.
The Opposition Leader further noted the recent incident where the BVIPA cut staff salaries for low-level workers during a mandatory COVID-19 lockdown last year, and said the entity is yet to restore those monies to its staff.
Executive staff at the time were not affected in the staff pay cuts.
BVI News sent WhatsApp messages to the BVIPA’s Marketing Director, Natasha Chalwell — a designated media liaison for the statutory body — to confirm whether Penn’s claims were true. Our news centre did not receive a response up to publication time.
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